No! I am not talking about tidal waves crashing over the Himalayas, geeky scientist, planetary alignment , mutation, and planet earth blah blah.
Instead, I am referring to Bar Matter No. 2012 issued by Supreme Court last February. SC came up with Bar Matter No. 2012, in essence, it talks about Mandatory Legal Aid Service (MALAS) , a new requirement for those who want to continue in the practice of law. Accordingly, every practicing lawyer is required to render a minimum of sixty (60) hours of free legal aid services to indigent litigants in a year. Said 60 hours shall be spread within a period of twelve (12) months, with a minimum of five (5) hours of free legal aid services each month. Non-compliance would render the erring lawyer be declared a member of the IBP who is not in good standing
The BM 2012 is supposed to take effect on July 1, 2009, but its effectivity is deferred on January 1, 2010.
While, the objective is praiseworthy, many practicing lawyers have expressed their disapprovals. While five hours per month may seem not necessarily burdensome, in actuality it is. I am based in Manila, but I belong to IBP Chapter located in the province which requires seven hours of travel. Which means, in order to comply with this rule, I have to take a leave of absence in the company where I work. Travel all the way to province, and then appear before the court. When a case is given to us, we devote not just five hours to come up with good pleading save for simple motions like postponement and extension. This is a pro bono case, and the litigation expenses are burdened by the lawyer. I believe that a lawyer should not be forced to do pro bono work, it has to be something voluntary not mandatory. Here’s the full text of the circular.